In August 2009, Governor Ritter announced that because of the state’s budget crisis the Grand Junction Regional Center’s skilled nursing unit would close in early 2010.
Since this announcement, our office worked closely with the state’s Division for Developmental Disabilities (DDD) to find new homes for these vulnerable residents who all have significant cognitive and physical needs—requiring attendant and nursing assistance throughout the day.
Disability Law Colorado was initially told that the 32 individuals would move to nursing homes, which we considered as unacceptable for people with developmental disabilities, especially for this group of residents who had lived together for many years.
We offered to work with the DDD to help the residents and their families transition to community settings, and we are pleased to report that despite a few glitches, the transition seems to have worked very well.
Mesa Development Services
Mesa Developmental Services (MDS), the local community centered board, has been tireless in its efforts to make new homes for the former GJRC residents. MDS has created three group homes, all of which were built from scratch. In less than a year, they purchased land, built homes, hired and cross-trained staff with the Regional Center and welcomed the new residents.
Each of the three group homes, Victoria, Olson and Cattail, has eight beds, and MDS tries very hard to create a genuine family environment.
The Joy of Daily Tasks
All residents are expected to be involved with everyday activities, such as laundry, meal preparation and shopping to the best of their ability.
One individual whose dietary restrictions require him to eat pureed food was delighted when he was invited into the kitchen to help prepare meals. He had never seen the whole ingredients before, and now one of his greatest pleasures is assisting in preparing his meals by pushing the button on the liquidizer.
Residents are also encouraged to participate in social events. To maintain the friendships created at the regional center, the three MDS homes have already established a tradition of hosting regular barbeques for each other and enjoying group outings.
Of the 32 displaced individuals, 23 moved into MDS group homes. The other residents moved to different areas of the state, some to be close to families and some found placements within other communities.
Through development of these group homes, staffing was the biggest challenge for MDS as many of the residents require highly skilled, round-the-clock attention. They encountered some problems in getting up to speed, but throughout all the difficulties, MDS has been open with guardians, family members and Disability Law Colorado advocates about the learning experience.
Disability Law Colorado extends our thanks to Mesa Developmental Services staff for their continued efforts to create a warm and welcoming environment with opportunities for the residents to enjoy rewarding and productive lives with the highest level of independence possible.